Raheem Sterling returned to the England starting line-up for the Euro 2020 qualifier in Kosovo after being dropped for the 7-0 win over Montenegro at Wembley.
The Manchester City forward was left out of a game which saw England secure qualification for the finals after a training ground bust-up with Joe Gomez which left the Liverpool defender with a scratch under his eye.
Sterling had a quiet match against Kosovo on his return as England showed little against disciplined opponents but still won 4-0 with goals from Harry Winks, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Mason Mount.
No Joe woe
Sterling did not have to cope with any awkward moments as Gomez missed the trip to Kosovo because of a knee injury suffered in training.
Sterling had taken to social media to criticise fans who booed Gomez at Wembley but with the Liverpool defender absent there were no worries about anything carrying over from their dispute.
Sterling had taken the blame for the incident and served the one-match ban imposed by manager Gareth Southgate. There appeared to be no dissenting voices amongst England fans in Pristina.
A quiet start
Sterling got an early touch but was quickly harried off the ball and then failed to control a pass from Winks as one of several England players who struggled to keep their footing.
England did not get off to their usual fast start and Sterling found his opportunities limited during the opening exchanges.
He was involved in England’s first attack after 13 minutes but his cross was too deep for Callum Hudson-Odoi before Sterling had his side’s first shot on target which forced a save from Arijanet Muric after a quarter of an hour.
Doing his duty in defence
With little to do in the first half Sterling’s most notable contribution was tracking back to make a challenge in his own area to break up a Kosovo attack.
Sterling was also on hand to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick and end another Kosovo attack as he once again proved his worth in defence.
Sterling’s cross was sliced by a defender and Kane netted the loose ball for England’s second goal after 79 minutes and the Manchester City forward then laid on the third for substitute Rashford four minutes later.
Sure of his spot
Regardless of how he performed in Pristina, the returning Sterling was already guaranteed a place in the England squad for the finals.
Which was just as well as he was as underwhelming as his team-mates against a side they had beaten 5-3 at Southampton in September. Three goals in the final 12 minutes put a shine on England’s below-par performance in Pristina.
Sterling had scored England’s first goal in that game at St Mary’s but failed to find the target this time out.
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